Libya: Dazed, Confused And Trying To Be Nice

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March 31, 2011:   The U.S. has admitted that it has CIA operatives inside Libya. But this has been an open secret for over a week. The intel operatives from the United States, and other nations, have found that the rebel movement has a chaotic leadership. A wide range of groups (tribal, political, religious) are represented, and decisions are made in a haphazard way, often when one faction simply gets on the road and takes off (towards or away from the enemy) and, in effect, dares everyone else to follow. Some of the factions represent current and former-Islamic terrorists. You don't need CIA operatives on the ground to know this. Even before the first bombs fell, American electronic eavesdropping aircraft, and ground based data collection efforts (for Internet and other communications) were scooping up and sorting out the "chatter" being generated from Libya. The rebels were unorganized and unfocused, except for the desire to kill Kaddafi and his minions. But Kaddafi and his henchmen were much better organized and focused.

A major advantage Kaddafi has is the inability of the UN and NATO to come right out and say they are going to destroy his government, or even kill him. Most major political figures are coming right out and saying that the NATO massive military effort is all about protecting the Libyan people from Kaddafi, not helping the rebels put Kaddafi out of business. This, of course, is absurd. As long as Kaddafi has his armed followers, the Libyan people are at risk. But Kaddafi knows how to play the game of international politics and media spin. And Kaddafi knows he must win or die. The rebels have other options, and much less focus. Meanwhile, in areas Kaddafi still controls, his secret police have apparently been ordered to hunt down all known rebel supporters, and quietly, and secretly, kill them.

The Kaddafi forces have military experience, better weapons and an incentive to succeed (or die). Thus, they have quickly adapted, by keeping armored vehicles off the coast road and hidden inside built-up areas. Truck have weapons and armed men kept hidden before they move into an area where the NATO surveillance can see them. The only vehicles that go on the coast road have to appear as non-military. This has enabled the government troops to ambush the disorganized rebels as they convoy of largely civilian vehicles came down the coast road to Kaddafi's hometown of Sirte (375 kilometers from Tripoli.). The rebels were then ambushed in several other towns along the highway, and pushed into a state of mass panic. The rebels fled back to Bin Jawad (626 kilometers from Tripoli.) American intel officials saw this coming. It didn't take a military genius to examine the chatter among Kaddafi forces and not notice the new tactics. But even communicating with the rebels is difficult, and convincing them to act in their own best interest is sometimes impossible. That's partly because of rebel bravado, and partly due to paranoia about these foreigners manipulating them. The U.S. and Britain are putting some more expert operatives into Libya, men who might be able to convince the rebels leaders more quickly what they must do. There are also more operatives, many of them former military, moving around in small teams to keep up with what the Kaddafi forces are doing to avoid detection and attack from the air. These recon teams can call in air strikes, at least American ones.

The U.S., and its allies, are reluctant to put ground forces into Libya, or supply the rebels with weapons. In short, no one wants to get really involved. But at the same time, no one wants Kaddafi to remain in power. But Kaddafi knows that many nations, especially Russia, China and most African states, oppose this effort to remove a hated dictator. Most UN nations are run by absolute rulers who tend to identify with Kaddafi's plight, not with the rebels announced desire for a representative (or at least more representative) government. The media in these countries is already generating horror stories about imaginary air attacks on Libyan civilians. Given a few actual such attacks, and enough time, the Western and international media will pick up on all this and portray the UN approved air effort as the bad guys. That's how it works, and Kaddafi knows it, as do Western leaders.

Qatar has sent six Mirage 2000 fighters to join the UN mandated air patrol over Libya. But the Qataris are there for propaganda purposes only, The Qatari jets only patrol and don't fire at anyone. The UAE has also offered twelve warplanes to join this non-violent patrol activity.

So far, American aircraft have flown about sixty percent of the sorties, but only about half of the combat sorties. About 55 percent of the sorties are for support (reconnaissance, electronic eavesdropping, aerial refueling). The no-fly force has been averaging 100-150 sorties a day, but demonstrated the ability to fly as many as 300 a day when such a surge is needed. About 700 missiles and smart bombs have been used so far, in addition to about 150 cruise missiles.

March 30, 2011: Kaddafi forces, using mostly machine-guns and assault rifles, ambush rebels approaching Sirte, causing a panicked retreat by the untrained and poorly led rebels. This retreat turned into a rout as rebels fled from two towns, as government forces organized an offensive that the no-fly force did not attack. Apparently, no one on the ground expected this move by Kaddafi forces. Apparently there was no coordination between the rebel forces and the NATO air force. This is what NATO leaders insist is, and will continue to be, the case. But behind the scenes, Western military leaders are pointing out that not working directly with the rebel forces will prolong the situation, aid Kaddafi and generally do little good. Some NATO political leaders are beginning to change their minds about how to operate in Libya.

March 29, 2011: Rebel forces quickly recapture Ajdabiya, Brega and Ras Lanuf, along the coast highway, and head for Kaddafi's birthplace of Sirte. NATO warplanes appear to have either destroyed all Kaddafi's armoed vehicles, or forced their crews to flee.

March 28, 2011: The NATO air effort has turned to Kaddafi's headquarters and munitions storage areas. His fighting forces appear to have disappeared, or gone into hiding. NATO is hoping that many of Kaddafi's troops have deserted, as there have been some reports of desertions.

March 26, 2011: The U.S. has sent A-10 ground attack aircraft and AC-130 gunships to operate over Libya.

March 25, 2011: A Canadian general has taken command of the NATO Libya force, and taken over control of the operation from the United States. However, U.S. forces tend to handle a disproportionate share of the military activities.

 

 

 

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